The rumor season has been ripe across the NBA, with potential free agents and trade targets cropping up on the mill repeatedly. There are big names like Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and relatively small ones like Isaiah Thomas, D.J. Augustin and Aron Baynes. But no matter the impact of the name involved, there are plenty of players primed to find new homes in the coming weeks.
Now, we can say exactly when the fun will begin: November 20, two days after the NBA conducts its draft.
And of special note to the Celtics, we have a potential date for teams and players to open the transaction window and begin making trades and opting into—or out of—pending contract years. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, that date will be either two or three days before the draft, meaning either November 15 or 16.
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That is worth noting because the Celtics are awaiting an enormous decision from forward Gordon Hayward, who has one year left on his contract worth $34 million. Hayward can opt out of that year and become a free agent, but it remains unclear whether he will do that.
Gordon Hayward’s Potential Free Agency Will Dominate Celtics’ Offseason
Hayward’s decision will overshadow everything that happens for the Celtics in the coming weeks.
If he opts out and becomes a free agent, the Celtics can either re-sign him for more years at a lesser upfront price tag or stand to lose him with no return, as happened with center Al Horford, who opted out of the final year of his contract and signed with Philadelphia last summer.
If Hayward opts in, the Celtics can either move forward with him or put him on the trade market. There has been chatter—mostly unconfirmed—that Hayward wants out of Boston.
There also has been chatter that the Celtics will have interest in upgrading at center, one of the weak spots on the roster last season. Rudy Gobert, LaMarcus Aldridge, Myles Turner and Andre Drummond are among the longshot big-name centers linked to the Celtics, and the only realistic way Boston could make a deal for any of them is to have Hayward opt in, then trade him.
That could affect how the Celtics approach the draft, too. Boston has three picks—No. 14, 26 and 30—in the first round and the Celtics are open to trading some combination of the three.
Celtics, NBA Set to Start on December 22
The NBA and the players association has already agreed on a season that will begin on December 22 and will run for 72 games, in an attempt to normalize a schedule that has been knocked sideways by the four-month hiatus caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic going back to March. The league finished its season, with 22 of 30 teams taking part in an eight-game restart before undergoing a full postseason.
The Celtics lost to Miami in the East finals. The Lakers defeated the Heat in six games in the Finals, which ended on October 11. That sets up a bizarre return to action in which Miami and L.A. will have had just 75 days off before returning to action, while eight teams—the Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks, Bulls, Knicks, Hornets, Warriors and Pistons—will have not played since early March.
The rushed period between the draft and free agency figures to cause some problems for front offices, which usually have about 10 days between the draft and free agency to reformulate their plans and arrange their priorities. Now, there will be only a matter of hours between the two.
And once free agency is worked out, it will be right back to the floor for all 30 teams—training camp will start on December 1.